ENDANGERED AND AT-RISK IN HOLLYWOOD
Hollywood's Most Endangered Sites:
Warner Pacific Theater: This grand Italianate Beaux Arts movie palace, designed by G. Albert Lansburgh, opened in 1928. It is the last of Hollywood's great movie theaters to remain underutilized and unrestored. A Historic Cultural Monument and a contributor to the Hollywood Boulevard Historic District, plans of office towers rising in the lot behind the theater continue to circulate as its neglected façade casts a shadow over the Boulevard. Its issues are further highlighted by the fate and condition of other theaters along the Boulevard: the Fox, the Vogue and the Hawaiian, have all been radically or insensitively altered for new uses. Hollywood Heritage is part of an active coalition including the Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation, The Art Deco Society of Los Angeles and the Hollywood Business Incentive District, all in favor of restoring this landmark. Councilman O’Farrell has been supportive of this effort. Hollywood Heritage has formed a coalition of interested parties to obtain accurate information about the plans of Robertson Properties in regards to the continued use of the Warner Theatre, one of Hollywood Boulevard’s most important landmarks. The building is currently vacant.
Janes House: Located at 6541 Hollywood Boulevard, the house is a survivor of the era when Hollywood was an actual city. Built in 1903 the house was one of the first model houses built on the Boulevard. From 1911 to 1926 it served as the Misses Janes School of Hollywood. The last Janes sister died in 1983, and the house has gone through several incarnations from the centerpiece of a shopping rcade to a trendy restaurant. Today the house is almost obscured from view, with a series of alterations which could potentially damage historic interior features. Recent use as a nightclub seems to have resulted in further unsympathetic changes to the building and setting.
CIM Cherokee Hotel: The CIM Development Group has proposed a new hotel on the north side of Hollywood Boulevard between Cherokee and Whitley. The building will occupy a large portion of the block Hollywood Heritage considers the site to be one of the most sensitive locations of the Hollywood Boulevard Commercial and Entertainment District. The hotel’s compatibility with the Boulevard’s historic resources, in terms of massing, size, scale and design is of paramount importance. This is an example of how infill development will affect the character of Hollywood’s most significant National Register district.
Fifth Church of Christ Scientist: The dwindling congregation recently sold this 1959 modern masterpiece of architect Howard Elwell, located at 7107 Hollywood Boulevard. Hollywood Heritage, alerted by the Modern Committee of LA Conservancy, has learned that the new owner has plans to demolish the church. Plans have been filed for this site which is located just outside of the Historic Hollywood Boulevard Commercial and Entertainment District.The plans call for 3 structures 6 to 26 stories high. The Church, an important modernist structure is scheduled to be demolished. The uncertain fate of the Fifth Church of Christ also represents the wider issue of the preservation of modern architecture in Hollywood. While landmarks such as the Capital Records Building and the Cinerama Dome are widely celebrated and cared-for, other structures such as the William Lescaze early modern CBS Columbia Square and Millard Sheet's 1967 Home Savings & Loan Association of America at Sunset and Vine are somewhat neglected. Others such as Honnold, Reibsamen & Rex's 1963 Sunset and Vine Tower have been radically transformed. A quick look at the surrounding high rise residential gives a preview of what the density on this corner will look like and how it will affect the context of such structures as the Women's Club of Hollywood and the Hollywood School for Girls just north of the WCH.
Woman’s Club of Hollywood and Hollywood School
Located at 1749 N. La Brea Avenue, this site contains a complex of historic structures including the 1904 Hollywood School for Girls hospitality house and the 1947 Hollywood Woman’s Club of Hollywood building. The effects of years of deferred maintenance and a period of mismanagement on the site have been compounded by recent inter-organizational struggles and legal action which has led to the neglect of the historic buildings. The property is now in receivership and its fate remains an open question. The current stewards have made needed repairs and are actively engaged in rebuilding the membership, preparing a maint- nance and rehabilitation plan and operating the property as a film location and event rental space. The Club celebrated its 110th anniversary in April.
Ford Amphitheatre: Construction has commenced at the site after the approval of a phased Master Plan in 2014. Hollywood Heritage will continue to assist the Ford on matters relating to the rehabilitation of the historic structures and surrounding landscape, and in developing further interpretation plans for the site.
Wattles Mansion and Gardens: Since the departure of Hollywood Heritage in 2009, the City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks has managed the house and it has remained closed to the public. While the department has always had plans to reopen the house for weddings and parties and was even allocated Quimby Act funds towards the restoration of the gardens, no work other than the erection of more security fencing has occurred. Hollywood Heritage provided the Department with plans for rehabilitation and maintenance in the form of a Historic Structures Report and a Cultural Landscape Report (prepared with funds from the Getty Conservation Institute). Left unoccupied and unused, Wattles future remains unclear.
Hollywood Boulevard: “Hollywood Boulevard is Back!” or so conventional wisdom would have it. However, with the Boulevard’s success has come a growing pressure on the resources of this nationally recognized historic commercial and entertainment district. Development plans being proposed for several sites including the Sardi's Building, and the property at the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Hudson across from the recently restored Hillview Hotel. Warner Theatre, a DOT development, and several hotels. Hollywood Heritage is supportive of hotels which will adaptively reuse historic structures, but is concerned about incompatible infill development. Hollywood Heritage is attempting to monitor all of these sites to encourage sensitive changes to preserve the historic character of this National Register District. Everyone’s alertness to changes on the Boulevard is appreciated.
See also: On the Boulevard
The Boulevard, one of the most significant historic districts in the nation listed in the National Register of Historic Places, continues to be at risk through inappropriate remodeling, demolition, and adjacent new construction. Several major contributors to the district, including the Warner Pacific Theater, and the Janes House are at risk. Storefronts continue to be remodeled with no reviews or compatibly with the Secretary of the Interior Standards, damaging integrity of individual structures. Architectural guidelines, in the works for decades, have not been approved. Historic signs have been damaged or removed, while new signage proliferates without adequate oversight.
Historic Residential Neighborhoods: The recent survey of central Hollywood's historic resources commissioned by the Hollywood Redevelopment Agency, brought to light the existence of several intact historic neighborhoods representing various periods and forms of Hollywood's development. These small districts have been eroded over the decades and represent the last of Hollywood's residential communities dating from the first half of the twentieth century. To date, the new survey has not been approved by CRA/LA, nor are there any official boundaries or recognition of these communities by the Planning Department, increasing the risk of further incompatible infill and demolitions. SurveyLa has also identified historic residential neighborhoods in the hillsides and in Los Feliz. These survey efforts should lead to timely designation of HPOZs and special planning districts in order to preserve the special characteristics of each neighborhood.
Pre annexation homes: Homes built prior to 1910 in Hollywood continue to lose their integrity through demolition and inappropriate alteration. Hollywood Heritage can help owners make appropriate choices for these properties. Just over one hundred survive, and they are a very important and overlooked part of our past.
Hollywood Studios: Hollywood studios are the essential element of historic Hollywood, the economic engine and the most endangered of our resources after Hollywood Blvd. Studios created our town and continue to be important to its well-being. Expansion and development plans are in progress at Hollywood Center, Paramount, Sunset Gower, and the Sunset Bronson Studios. Within each of these studios are historic structures; each of these studios were participants in the Hollywood Studio Task Force put together by former Councilman Michael Woo. Hollywood Heritage cooperated with the formation of this group as it promised surveys of the participating lots and notification whenever a historically significant building was affected by plans. Councilman O’Farrell has been supportive of discussions between the studios and Hollywood Heritage so that Hollywood Heritage can support sensitive development on studio sites while retaining their historic character.
Hollywood Heritage intends to be an active participant in the process, encouraging preservation of historic buildings of all shapes and sizes which relate to film production. The Lot (United Artists), Paramount, Hollywood Center, Sunset Gower (Columbia), and Sunset Bronson (Warner Brothers #1) each seek to keep their facilities relevant for current technology and use while retaining historic structures. Many structures on these properties have been and can be adaptively reused for industry needs.
Churches, Parks and Community Institutions: Resources come in all shapes and sizes. It is the collection of these resources that give Hollywood its visual character. Erosion of this historic fabric through demolition and inappropriate alteration continues to endanger community identity. Particularly at risk are public and private non-profit institutions which form the nucleus of the Hollywood community. Without churches, clubs, parks, and schools, Hollywood will rapidly lose its “sense of place” and historic identity. Dwindling membership and congregations are challenged to properly care for some of the most unique properties in the community, Hollywood Heritage offers technical assistance to all stewards of such properties, including organizational development; identification of qualified architects and contractors; preparation of maintenance and rues plans’ and use of incentives.
Planning: It is not just historic building that are at risk. There is currently no planning framework in Hollywood to even discuss the opportunity for incorporating historic structures into planning for growth. Certified by the City Council in June 2012, The Hollywood Community Plan is currently facing litigation. The Community Plan contains policies for the protection of historic buildings, districts, and neighborhoods. It is the implementation of these goals that Hollywood Heritage now seeks. Saving the past for the future still remains an important community benefit. Density and zoning must be clarified; community benefits for request over and above prescribed limits must be a part of a thoughtful and transparent entitlement process.
According to a Settlement Agreement with Hollywood Heritage, the CRA continues to process demolition permits in its former project area as the City determines how to absorb its responsibilities into Planning or other agencies. The 2009 Settlement Agreement which Hollywood Heritage had with the agency continues in place, requiring the Agency to notify Hollywood Heritage of any pending demolition permits on buildings 50 years old or older. In the past year Hollywood Heritage has received requests for all types of properties located throughout the former project area. In some cases, an assessment report has been requested to provide a complete evaluation of the building. The owners of 6063 Sunset provided such a report produced by consultant Leslie Heumann. This well written document provided a history of the building, documented its many alterations and evaluated the building in its existing condition as not meeting the criteria for historic resources. The thorough analysis provided much needed information about the building: Hollywood Heritage made a considered decision and did not oppose its demolition. The implementation of the Settlement Agreement remains a positive way for Hollywood Heritage to share its concerns about the disposition of resources with the City. It is hoped that this relationship will continue with those who assume the CRA’s planning functions. Due to a lack of clear guidelines and complete public access to surveyed historic resources, decisions are still made on a case by case basis. This is not “planning.” Hollywood Heritage encourages the Planning Department to quickly clarify and implement its approach to historic resource protection by use of specific plans, CPO’s, district designation, and architectural guidelines based on the Secretary of the Interior Standards.
Parks: Since the departure of Hollywood Heritage in 2009, the City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks has managed Wattles Mansion and Gardens. including the house and surrounding park. The mansion has remained closed to the public. The Department started plans to reopen the house for events and was even allocated Quimby Act funds towards the restoration of the gardens. No work other than the erection of more security fencing and an engineering project to improve the water drainage at the rear (north) yards to handle surface storm water better in order to prevent the flooding and mud flow problems that had been experienced in the past has occurred. Left unoccupied and unused, Wattles future remains unclear. This icon of 20th century Hollywood deserves to occupy a more prominent role in the community. The Department owes its citizens a plan for its stewardship.